196 B. POLEVOI
although others now directed its affairs, he came to the
hospital every day, and if he had the time, went around
the wards and gave advice. But he was a different man
after the loss of his son. His former boisterous cheerful-
ness was gone; he no longer shouted and railed, and
those who knew him well regarded this as a sign of ap-
"Now, Meresyev, let's learn this together/' he proposed.
Turning to his retinue, he said: "You go along, this is
not a circus, there's nothing to look at. Finish the round
without me." And then again to Meresyev: "Now then,
boy ... one! Hold on, hold on to me, don't be shy! I'm
a general, and you've got to obey me. Now, two! That's
right. Now the right foot. Good ^ Left! That's fine!"
The famous surgeon rubbed his hands cheerfully as
if in teaching a man to walk he was performing a God
knows how important experiment. But such was his na-
ture, to become enthused with everything he did, and
to put all his great, energetic soul into it. He compelled
Meresyev to walk the length of the ward, and when
Alexei dropped completely exhausted on to a chair, he
drew another chair up, sat down beside him and said:
"Well, are we going to fly? I should say so! In this
war, my boy, men with an arm torn off lead companies
in attacks, mortally wounded men fire machine-guns,
men block enemy machine-guns with their bodies....
Only the dead are not fighting." A shadow crossed the
old man's face and he added with a sigh: "But even the
dead are fighting ... with their glory. Yes-----Now,
young man, let's start again."
When Meresyev stopped to rest after his second lap
across the ward, the professor pointed to the bed that
Gvozdev had occupied and inquired:
"What about the tankman? Has he been discharged?"
Meresyev told him that the tankman had recovered and
had rejoined his unit. The only trouble with him was
that the burns had terribly mutilated his face, especially
the lower part.
"So he has written to you already? I suppose he is
heartbroken because the girls don't love him. Advise him
to grow a beard and moustache. I mean it, seriously. It
will look original, and the girls will take a fancy to him."